We always hope that our lawmakers have our best interests at heart, but sometimes there’s just evidence to the contrary. In many cases, such as with the Freedom of Information Act, whistleblower retaliation protection and many workplace safety laws, Congress has exempted itself. But if our legislative members are not subject to the same laws we are, their interests are not aligned with ours and they may legislate aligned with lobbyists rather than constituents. Is this hypocrisy at play in the debate over student loans?
If Congress doesn’t act by this Friday, student loan interest rates on subsidized Federal student loans will double. Our lawmakers are gridlocked in partisan politics as the date draws closer. This is reminiscent of the foot dragging and in-fighting that erupted over the fiscal cliff and result in the sequestration we are still mired in. Beyond the student loan interest rate increase, Congress has failed to act on the ever-deepening student loan crisis at-large.
Many pieces of legislation have been proffered that would address the ills of our student loan system, but they fail to gain attention or passage again and again. And when they do rise to the level of a vote, they typically fail along party lines. But when it comes to their personal staff, our lawmakers seem much more motivated to make things happen.
In 2012 alone, Congress used more than $20 million in taxpayer dollars to alleviate student loan debt for their staffers. The federal workers loan repayment program was intended to help recruit and retain quality candidates to traditionally lower paying federal positions, but Congressional staffers aren’t usually on a government service career path.
Instead, there is usually heavy competition for prestigious staff positions in the halls of power and a few years spent there can translate to a lucrative position outside of government. Since recruiting isn’t an issue for Congress and retention isn’t a question as these positions are short-term by choice, why are they being accorded a benefit intended for long-term federal employees? The answer: because Congress decided that they wanted it that way and acted to make it happen.
So how about some student loan relief for the rest of America? Sadly this doesn’t seem to be a priority. With just four days to go for both Houses to agree to legislation that will forestall doubling of interest rates on subsidized Federal loans, will they act or will they leave us to languish even deeper in debt? Time will tell. It’s too bad Congress doesn’t view constituents as customers and offer better customer service…
To keep tabs on your student loans – critically important with the impending rate increase – try Tuition.io’s free student loan tool. Track and manage your loans (federal and private) in one easy-to-use interface, check out repayment plan options and contact your lenders. If you want to keep tabs on what’s going on with student loans and Congress, please enjoy these recent blogs: